Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thanks to PitE student help in the forest

Today, I had a lot of help from PitE students who came out to the forest and - among other things - helped do some work out in the forest. Over the course of about an hour, these 20 students helped clip brush, haul wood, and clean some trails:




Thanks! ...and feel free to come out again to do some more work. ;)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Regional impacts due to Arctic melting: The future doesn't look anything like the past

Out of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, there is a brief on the potential future impacts of climate change on the region. (Well, the statements are about Wisconsin, but the impacted areas are definitely not going to stop at the Wisconsin state line.)
Vavrus, an expert on the arctic climate, says the dramatic melting trend is due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere warming the planet. He says natural variability may have accelerated the loss of ice in recent years, and he adds that the far north has physical characteristics that make it more sensitive to warming than other parts of the globe.

For one, he explains, snow and ice that normally cover the region reflect most incoming solar radiation back to space, but increased melting exposes land or ocean water that absorb more solar energy and accelerate any warming trend.

In addition, the lowest layer of the atmosphere in the Arctic is thin and prone to temperature inversions that hold warmer air near the ground, promoting even more melting as the region warms.

Vavrus says the Arctic is likely to continue to see pronounced downward trends in sea ice, snow cover, glacier extent, and permafrost. He says that will have major impacts on both natural ecosystems and human communities in the northernmost latitudes.

But the impacts of a warming Arctic could also be felt far beyond the region, including in the Midwest, according to research conducted by Vavrus and his colleague Jennifer Francis at Rutgers University published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters last spring.

"We believe that the winds aloft at the level of the jet stream will weaken and lead to slower-moving and 'wavier' atmospheric circulation patterns," he explains. "Such a change would favor more extreme weather events in middle latitudes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and—ironically—cold snaps."
What this means is that we can expect more weather patterns like what we saw this year: warmer winters, warmer springs, warmer summers, less rain on average, more rain in concentrated events, sudden cold snaps; you know: nothing like it used to be.

For Saginaw Forest, this will mean continued take-over by vines, continued lowering of the lake level, accelerated death of pine species, and rapid changes in the plant communities (as well as the insect, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds that live in the forest). Furthermore, if lake levels get any lower than they are now, the near-shore habitat will be completely out of the water, severely limiting the available area for the fish currently in the lake to spawn, thus potentially causing a decline in the total number of fish in the lake.

... good times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chipmunk sighting - stranger than you might think

This morning I saw a chipmunk. While a chipmunk in the forest might not seem like such a strange thing, there haven't been any ever since I noticed their disappearance back in 2009... thanks to the feral cat that was shacked up in the barn.

My thought is that the many chipmunks that I saw prior to the feral cat's presence were pretty much all killed by the momma cat to feed her litter. With the disappearance of the cat, the population of chipmunks were able to recover.

If we do some very basic back-of-envelope calculations, this makes a kind of sense:
  • Chipmunks take a year to reach maturity, producing one or two litters each year (Feb-Apr and Jun-Aug).
  • June 2009: Widespread death of chipmunks near the barn; assume no surviving females nor young, therefore no young litter from the June-August litters and no juveniles.
  • Feb-Apr 2010: Cold average temperatures: assume unlikely that chipmunks in surrounding areas have new litters; death of juveniles likely high.
  • Jun-Aug 2010: Production of first viable litters in 2010 in surrounding areas.
  • Jun-Aug 2011: Production of second viable litters moving into the area around the barn.
  • Feb-Apr 2012: Anomalously warm winter and spring create further litters in the surrounding areas.
  • Jun-Aug 2012: Relatively high number of chipmunks in the area surrounding the barn.
  • Sep 2012: Mast year for nuts mean that chipmunks are running around, looking for nuts
Yeah, it's just guessing. And, yeah, I've been hearing the chipmunks through this summer, too. However, I didn't recognize how much I missed those little beasties until I saw that one this morning.

Still, it's a further reminder of the predatory potential of house cats. One more reason why people should spay and neuter their cats: so feral cats won't have litters and end up killing small mammals and birds.